How Fast Can Drones Fly?

Though drones have advanced rapidly since their conception, one of the most remarkable things about them is speed. But how fast can drones fly?

The speed of a drone may be attributed to many factors, including model, flying environment, and power source. The maximum speed of most consumer drones is about 45 miles per hour.

Even so, the FPV drones can fly at 100 miles per hour. However, the XLR V3 flew 257 miles per hour, setting the Guinness World Record.

Military drones fly fast, though it depends on their functions, models, and other factors. The Falcon HTV-2, for instance, can fly at 16,874 miles per hour.

Read on to learn more about drone speeds..

How Fast Can Drones Fly?

How Fast Can Drones Fly?

External and internal factors, such as wind, terrain, obstacles, and the drone’s internal parts, may influence the speed of your drone.

The drone’s power source, weight, model, and aerodynamics, among other factors, also influence the drone’s speed, as we shall see later in this write-up.

Generally, though, toy drones do not have a high speed like the commercial ones because they’re meant for newbie pilots.

Since they’re small and incredibly easy to use, even children can fly them. Most toy drones, for example, DJI Tello, Altair Falcon, and Hubsan X4 H107C, feature an average speed of approximately 12 mph to 30 mph.

On the other hand, a consumer drone can fly at approximately 40 to 70 miles per hour.

Some of the consumer drones with great speed include the the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, which flies at a speed of 45 mph; the DJI Inspire 2, featuring a speed of 58 mph, and one of the most recent releases from DJI, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro that can fly up to 47 MPH.

Racing drones feature an incredibly high speed due to their functions (racing). Based on their model, some racing drones can fly at 130 mph or more.

To increase their aerodynamics and speed, racing drones are generally small to combat wind resistance.

Some racing drones include the Eachine Wizard TS-130, which flies at 108 mph; Hobbymate Asteroid 3″ FPV, at 112 mph; and Diatone GT-R369, at 125 mph.

Fixed-wing drones look like gliders and airplanes and may feature high speed due to their single or multiple propellers. Based on their payloads, fixed wings could fly at 30 to 50 mph or more.

Examples of fixed wings drones include Crazepony Sonicmodell Flywing, which has a speed of 43 mph; VTOL KIT 320 Fixed Wing Frame Drone, with a speed of 48 mph; and Skywalker FPV Black X8, with a speed of Skywalker FPV Black X8.

What Are the Factors Affecting Drone Speed?

As mentioned above, several internal and external factors affect the drone’s speed.

They include;

Internal factors

  • Drone model
  • Drone’s weight
  • Motor power
  • Drone’s aerodynamics
  • Operating voltage

Let’s take a look at these factors below.

Type of Drone

As I have discussed above, different drone types feature different flying speeds. For example, racing drones have an extremely high speed compared to toy drones used by pilots learning to fly drones.

There are various types of drones, for example, racing, consumer, toy, and fixed-wing drones.

Drone’s Weight

Though lightweight drones may have a higher speed, this is not always caused by their weight alone.

Therefore, the major things that contribute to a drone’s speed include its aerodynamics (more on this later), size, and the impact of air friction.

So, aside from weight, the drone’s components and motor power also hugely determine its speed.

Motor Power

If a drone has a powerful motor, its maximum speed, payload capacity, and acceleration will increase. However, some drones may have low motor power due to various reasons:

To lower battery consumption: Strong drone motors consume high power. Hence, to reduce battery consumption, some drones have weaker motors.

This explains why some standard drones have a higher flight time than some FPV drones.

Effectively control the drone: For accurate and smooth flights and to ensure that the drone successfully stays under the pilot’s control, the drone is made with a weak motor. This is essential because it minimizes drone crashes and people’s deaths.

Drone’s Aerodynamics

A drone with good aerodynamics, such as the DJI FPV or the DJI Avata, can reach much higher speeds than drones without.

The ability of a drone to resist wind during flights and fly fast and successfully is impacted by its aerodynamics.

Operating Voltage

The drone’s components, such as the motors, operate at a particular voltage based on the drone type and function.

The voltage in batteries is dictated by how many cells they have. The “S” count refers to the number of cells a drone’s battery has; for example, if a battery has 2 cell batteries, we could say it has “2S.”

Most 1S batteries have a voltage of 3.7 volts, while the 6S batteries have 22.2 volts.

Most drones’ voltage falls within this bracket, but there are those with higher voltage based on their quality. The higher the voltage, the more power the drone has, and the faster it can fly.

Drones with a high voltage may also feature a high-end drone motor, but such are high-end drones used for commercial and racing purposes.

Internal Parts

A drone’s flight controller, Electronic speed controllers (ECS), and other internal components largely contribute to the drone’s speed and overall performance.

For maximum speed and high power, a 45A ESC, in first-person view (FPV), may allow a maximal equal distribution current flow of about 45 amps to the drone’s motor.

External Factors

As we have seen above, a drone’s internal factors may be great to give your drone a high speed. Sadly, the following external factors may also affect the drone’s speed.

  • Drone’s maximum altitude
  • Weather conditions

I’ll discuss more below.

Drone’s Maximum Altitude

A drone’s performance may be affected at high altitudes because atmospheric pressure decreases as you go higher.

As a result, the drone has to work harder to generate and maintain lift.

A drone’s maximum service ceiling (as aviation guys call it) is the maximal recommended altitude at which it should fly without experiencing a decline in performance.

Weather Conditions

High and low temperatures and strong winds significantly affect the drone’s speed. Very high temperatures lower atmospheric pressure, causing the drone to use more battery power.

On the other hand, lower temperatures limit the batteries’ performance, limiting the power they can discharge.

Very strong winds flying against the direction the drone is flying in will also slow down the drone significantly.

Therefore, regardless of your drone’s maximal speed, it could still flow at a slower speed due to the negative impacts of weather.

How Can I Increase My Drone’s Speed?

If you want to increase a drone’s range, you might want to also increase its speed by:

  • Increasing the capacity of the battery
  • Improving its aerodynamics
  • Reducing its weight
  • Changing drone propellers
  • Choosing the right flight mode
  • Using a tailwind
  • Changing drone motors

Read on as I discuss at length below.

Use a Tailwind

As I have stated in this write-up, strong winds slow your drone. With a tailwind, though, the speed increases since you are taking advantage of the wind’s direction. Even so, using a tailwind drains your battery.

Hence, avoid flying too far to lower the risk of accidents or the chances of losing the drone.

Increase the Capacity of the Battery

How much current your drone’s battery can deliver is determined by the milliampere-hours, abbreviated as (mAh).

So, to know the capacity of your drone battery, check the mAh. Drones featuring a high mAh have a high speed and excellent overall performance.

Nevertheless, it would help if you also were mindful of the drone’s weight. As I mentioned, heavy drone batteries could also impact the drone’s performance.

Change Drone Motors

Motors, as I have mentioned here, dramatically determines the speed of your drone. If your drone has low-end drone motors, change them to higher-performing motors.

However, make sure you are experienced in dealing with drone components since some are potential fire hazards.

Secondly, make sure the motor power corresponds to the batteries you are using and the overall drone design to ensure optimal drone performance.

Lastly, make sure your piloting skills are good since more power means higher speeds and the drone will be even more difficult to control. 

Improve Its Aerodynamics

Use variable pitch or folding propellers to improve your drone’s ability to flow amidst high air resistance.

These propellers boost a drone’s aerodynamics by reducing vibrations and noise and increasing speed.

A drone’s design also affects its aerodynamics. Streamlined drone design improves a drone’s stability and decreases drag.

Change Drone Propellers

If propellers are the main reason for a slow speed, change them. Larger propellers increase the drone’s speed.

However, ensure they’re not touching the drone’s frames when installing them. Also, ensure they’re not adding too much weight to the drone, which could also affect its speed.

Reduce a Drone’s Weight

Some heavyweight drones feature a slow speed. As I have already mentioned, this is not to mean that weight isn’t a contributing factor to a drone’s performance.

Even so, heavyweight drones could perform better if their weight decreased by, for example, using a lightweight battery.

If the weight of a drone goes down, power consumption will also be lower. Consequently, the drone’s speed and overall performance will go up. That will also greatly impact how far the drone can go.

Buying drones with frames and propellers of light materials such as aluminum or carbon fiber increases speed.

Another effective way to reduce your drone’s weight is by removing accessories you’re not using, such as landing gear, extra cameras, and lights.

Choose the Right Flight Mode

Some drones have different flying modes, including cine mode, acro mode, and normal mode.

So, you choose the flight mode based on the speed you want to fly at. However, consider your expertise when choosing the flight mode.

Manual or acro mode, for example, increases the drone’s speed, but it is only ideal for experts.

Why? The drone doesn’t utilize flight assistance functions such as automatic stabilization. Consequently, the chances of drone crashes are extreme. 

In contrast, the drone’s top speed is constricted when the drone is in normal or cine mode.

This mode is excellent for beginners or experts who want to minimize the chances of a drone crash. Normal mode also gives you a smooth flight, but the drone’s speed may not be as high as in the manual flight mode.

In some standard Global Positioning System drones, the flight’s speed could be highly lowered when operated using the cine mode.

What Is the Legal Speed Limit of a Drone?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set strict speed limit laws.

Different states and countries also have strict speed and drone range laws to protect humanity, their properties, and animals from drone accidents and death.

So, based on your drone knowledge, you may know what happens if you fly a drone above 400 feet or hit the forbidden speed limit.

Therefore, despite your drone’s maximum speed limit, you must adhere to the state and FAA laws. Otherwise, you’ll be fined or jailed.

Below are some of the laws applicable in a few states:

  • In China, the law requires you to maintain a maximal speed of 62 mph.
  • In the United States, the FAA’s maximal flight speed is 100 mph
  • The European Union (EU) regulations require that you don’t exceed 42.5 MPH for Class 0 and 1 drones.

What Are the Benefits of Flying a Drone at a High Speed?

There are risks, but there are also benefits of flying drones at a high speed, as outlined below:

Creates outstanding cinematic videos: Flying drones at high speed creates excellent cinematic aerial videos.

Such requires highly skilled pilots as the risks of drone accidents are extreme. Always consider the local laws before flying your drone at a high speed.

Perfects your racing skill: If you desire to join drone racers or start a career in FPV, begin practicing.

Though you don’t have to fly your drone at an extreme speed, flying the drone at the highest approved speed based on your state could perfect your skills.

4 Possible Risks of Flying Drones Fast

Though flying drones fast has a few advantages, I wouldn’t recommend taking the risk. Here’s why.

  • High risk of an arrest: You could easily be arrested for flying drones fast. However, based on your state’s law, you may only be fined.
  • Increased rate of accidents: When flying your drone at a high speed, it’s easy to miss an obstacle, a flying bird, or an airplane.

    This heightens the chances of a drone accident, which is why you could be fined or jailed when caught. The jail term or fine could be high if there is damage to property or death of people or animals.
  • Internal parts damage: Electronic speed controllers, motors, and other drone components could burn out when the drone flies at high speed for an extended time.

    Consequently, the drone could crash. Besides, its durability could be compromised. Hence, even with a high-quality drone, avoid flying it at a high speed.
  • Shorten Battery’s Lifespan: Despite using a high-end drone battery, always flying your drone at high speed could drastically lower its durability.

    Therefore, consider the drone’s maximum battery’s C-Rate and avoid going overboard. The C-rate refers to how fast a drone’s battery discharges safely.

What Are 4 Safety Precautions You Need to Take When Flying Drones Fast?

Your safety and those of people, animals, and properties should always come first when contemplating flying your drone at a high speed.

So, here are several precautions to consider when flying drones at a high speed.

  • Avoid distractions: Avoid picking up calls or doing any other activity that could distract your focus.

    Drones can be dangerous; hence, a single second of distraction is enough to have a drone crash or people killed by your drone.
  • Avoid highly occupied areas: Never fly your drone in areas with many obstacles, such as trees, terrains, and buildings.

    Also, avoid flying your drone over a school, highway, or other highly crowded places because drone propellers could hurt people if the drone crashes on them.
  • Have a companion: Since you will focus on the remote controller (RC) screen, request someone to be on standby to monitor the drone closely.
  • Closely monitor the On-screen display (OSD): When the drone is at high speed, monitor the battery level, the flight time remaining, and the current speed. This ensures that the flight is smooth and there are no accident occurrences.

Wrap Up

As I have discussed above, how fast drones can fly depends on many factors such as the drone’s model, weight, motor, operating voltage, and aerodynamics. Weather conditions and flight altitude also impact the drone’s speed. 

You may increase the drone’s speed by improving its aerodynamics, changing the motors and propellers, using a tailwind and batteries with a high capacity, lowering the drone’s weight, and choosing a good flight mode. However, the risks involved in flying drones at a high speed are high.

So, check the local laws before flying your drone fast and always maintain your safety and that of those around you.

Author
Peter Karanja

Peter is a licensed drone pilot and drone fanatic. He owns a DJI Air 2S that he uses to shoot videos for fun, enjoyment and for clients.

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